Your Stories: Making New Discoveries in the World Family Tree
Chad Woodburn is descended from a long line of pioneers. From his nine ancestors who were on the Mayflower to his father, who came to California in a covered wagon, it’s no wonder Chad became interested in his family history at a young age.
His interest was first peeked upon reading handwritten family genealogy tables that went back a few hundred years. As a child, he would listen to his parents and grandparents tell stories about their lives and of their ancestors.
“Some of it was family folklore that got garbled over the years, but I’ve been able to sort out a lot of it: an ancestor and his son that died in the same battle in the Civil War, an ancestor that killed a rival of Robert the Bruce for him, and a Scottish ancestor whose Covenanter flag is in a museum in Scotland.”
Since beginning his research, Chad has made many surprising discoveries.
“I grew up thinking that I was Scottish on my dad’s side and Dutch on my mom’s. As I’ve gone back further and further in my ancestry I’ve come to find out that I’m both of those, plus Irish, English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish, Jewish, Egyptian, Swedish, Russian, Chinese, and more. I love it. “
“Of course it is particularly surprising when you find out that you are descended from kings and emperors…“
However the best discoveries are the ones that are a little closer to home.
“Once the novelty of being descended from nobility wears off, what I really like is doing the research into the lives of my commoner ancestors (as well as aunts and uncles and cousins). I had no idea how much information is out there. One university is excavating an ancestor’s pioneer home this summer. “
Chad first joined Geni in November after his retirement. While at first he didn’t know what Geni had to offer, he soon found Geni’s World Family Tree a true wonder.
“I was surprise to find out that there is a “big tree” that I just needed to plug into using Geni. I quickly went from having scores of ancestors that I knew about to having thousands (I’m up to 48,339 now). I think if I had known what Geni had to offer and what I’d find, I would have joined Geni a lot earlier. “
Soon he discovered his sister was working on their ancestry too and was able to piggyback off of her research and expand the tree even further.
“I wanted to include my son-in-law in my tree, and I found out that his aunt had already done some research, which I was then able to enter into Geni and merge into the Big Tree (we all got a good laugh out of finding out that he’s descended from Henry VIII).“
“My wife’s ancestry had something like only 38 people in it. Some family members had done some of the research. Taking their information and doing more research, I’ve expand that to thousands. “
Recently, Chad was able to overcome a few brick walls with the help of MyHeritage’s Smart Matches™.
“I had been trying to research one of my 2nd great grandparents. It was the only gap in my immediate family tree. I was finally able to establish their identity through a lot of Internet sleuthing. But I found nothing about his ancestors.
That is when I saw that one of the “Smart Matches” on Geni had information that seemed certain to be what I needed. So, I reluctantly paid the fee for a full MyHeritage membership. WOW. Did that ever help. Using the information of MyHeritage and Geni, I was able to expand my 2nd great grandfather’s tree way, way back.
I’ve been using the Smart Matches with so many other “dead ends” in our family trees. While many of those remain dead ends, so many others have revealed many more ancestors. So, since I am serious about researching my genealogy, I must say that MyHeritage is well worth it. “
After years of researching his ancestry, Chad has some great tips to share with other researchers:
- Look for the stories. They are hidden in the data, scattered across the Internet, and are by no means trivial.
- Care about the people. You won’t always approve of what they did, and at times you won’t even be able to make sense of it, but try to empathize with them. They aren’t just names. They are family.
- Understand that doing good genealogical research can take a lot of time. But it is so personally rewarding. Your own descendants will thank you for it.
- Don’t take it too seriously. That is, don’t get upset when you find out that there were some really awful people in your ancestry, and don’t get proud that you have some really wonderful people in your ancestry. We all do. And none of it tells us who we are, only where we came from.
- Find different ways of investigating your ancestors. For example, I’ve started to focus on the manors, castles, and palaces of my and my wife’s ancestors. That has led to information about those ancestors that I don’t think I would have found otherwise.
- Consider printing up a booklet of your ancestry for your family members. What would you include? How would you present it? I’ve just completed working on one for my mother-in-law that traces one straight line of her ancestry back to the beginning of time. I’m working on another one for my wife on the castles of England and Scotland owned by her ancestors. They has maps and pictures as well as biography. I’ll get a few copies printed in full color for the family members.
Special thanks to Chad for sharing his experiences with us!
Do you have a story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .